We live in Industry 4.0 (also known as the fourth industrial revolution), an era of challenging but exciting technological change. Driving automation and manufacturing, as well as the rest of the industries, at the same time as it moves towards sustainability. We are on the rise of advanced embedded technology, which is the key to current and future innovative business plans and climate change. The manufacturing industry is at the center of this important period.
Since the German government started using the concept of "Industry 4.0" (during the 2011 Hannover Fair) as initiative to promote smart factories, other countries have adopted it. Starting an increasing development of advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR), etc. As the implementation of smart factories to optimize efficiency and productivity.
With these upgrades, also come challenges. Currently, smart factories are trying to successfully achieve digital transformation overcoming factory legacy technology, security, and expenses. Let's get into the topic.
The emergence of industry 4.0 brought the concept of the 'smart factory' into play, which is the digital transformation of a manufacturing facility to interconnect and automate everything to optimize production processes and improve efficiency.
The implementation of smart factories consists of implementing various advanced technologies in embedded systems, a big boost is expected in 2023. Some of the most widely used are as follows:
Smart factories are implemented with industrial IoT (IIoT) devices enabling connection and communication between devices and systems improving data collection and analysis. For example, increasing automation and other smart factory solutions.
Artificial intelligence in a smart factory system gives a big boost to overall factory performance. AI allows production processes optimization, predictive maintenance, control and quality standards improvement, etc. AI is expected evolve and turn smart factories into smarter and more resilient facilities.
The use of big data and analytics in smart factories is crucial, as it enables real-time data monitoring and decision-making, improving production processes' performance and increasing efficiency. It also provides insights into facility performance to leverage information creating better smart factory applications.
A smart factory includes the integration of robots and automated machines; helping to perform repetitive or risky and heavy-duty tasks, making work easier and safer for the human workforce. A smart factory uses collaborative robots (cobots), designed to collaborate with workers in tasks such as assembly, pick-and-place operations, and quality control.
When fully integrated, smart factories can operate in a more flexible, adaptable, and optimizable way. They can monitor any activity in the factory, allowing improvement in efficiency, productivity, quality, and infrastructure maintenance, as well as taking care of the human resources in the facility.
The main goal of a smart factory is to be highly efficient, adaptable, profitable, and environmentally friendly. Creating a new manufacturing environment for manufacturers because it increases saving opportunities, better asset utilization, and real-time data use to leverage findings.
These characteristics will help the development and growth of the manufacturing industry, a global development driver. Helping to boost other industries, such as technology, innovation, and science. In addition, adopting smart factories will help achieve goal 9 of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
In addition to the crucial factors mentioned above, the benefits that embedded systems bring to a smart factory are several, especially the following:
The use of automation technologies, such as AI and machine learning, increases factory efficiency and productivity. For example, by optimizing production schedules and reducing workflows and downtime, resulting in minimizing costs while increasing production performance.
A smart factory helps improve product quality by using IoT sensors and devices to monitor products meet quality standards. Human error and failure detection along the production process improves.
Automating dangerous tasks minimizes human accidents' risks, helping to improve workplace and facility safety, leading to cost savings.
The implementation of advanced embedded systems permits monitoring and analyzing data in real-time, helping to fix issues before they become major.
Smart factories help waste management and environmental impact by using energy-efficient equipment and procedures; reducing carbon footprint emissions, water consumption, minimizing raw material use, etc.
There are still some aspects that need tackling to achieve digital transformation in smart factories; these are the following:
Traditionally these two kinds of technologies work separately. Information Technology (IT) is digital interconnectivity: servers, networking, data, and other digital domains. Operational Technology (OT) is unconnected technology: system hardware and software, monitoring and controlling how physical devices perform.
The difference between the two technologies may require manual integration because they use different languages, protocols, or platforms, making integration difficult and requiring expertise and time. In addition, IoT integration makes the OT side more vulnerable because the digital access surface gets exposed, making it necessary to address security at the same time as operational consistency.
To really achieve industry 4.0 goals, OT and IT must be able to share data, as the main advantage is to produce valuable information for the company. Information processing must be secure, constant, and uninterrupted; therefore, edge computing makes the convergence between IT and OT possible, as it ensures a fluent workflow.
The success of real-time data depends on computing efficiency. Latency is the time it takes for data to pass from one point on a network to another, impacting negatively smart factory system real-time responsiveness.
In addition, a centralized system can be riskier than an edge computing system, as it has a central point of attack, making it more vulnerable to cyberattacks. That is why edge computing is the best option for a smart factory system, as it makes possible faster, and more reliable smart manufacturing operations.
The integration of IIoT makes Operational Technology (OT) more vulnerable because the digital access surface gets wider, which is why edge computing is the best option. Edge computing and blockchain help improve security in smart factory systems because they provide real-time processes and analyze data at the edge, reducing the risk of an attack as data is kept on-premises. Another benefit is, it provides more transparency and control, by being distributed among the users in the network mitigating the risks and vulnerabilities centralized systems open.
The best way to handle all the challenges and take full advantage of smart factories is to define a plan of action. Determine the best technology and support for your business, your goals and mission, and maintain an evolution according to future demands.
Internet of Everything Corporation offers you a holistic and resilient approach to your business, with our embedded system; Eden. Data can be processed in real-time and locally, in the Eden Edge Cluster without the need to be moved to a public cloud; making the system more secure, efficient, and profitable.
Eden is an embedded system implemented with edge computing, which allows interconnecting legacy infrastructure and any other new equipment, helping smart factories to tackle the challenges of integrating their previous infrastructure and making them work seamlessly with other technologies. As Eden can process data in real-time and locally, it reduces/mitigates latency, resulting in faster decisions, and minimizing delays and downtime.
The Eden system also includes blockchain, providing a secure environment, as data is processed, analyzed, and stored locally. The control and authority relay among all the users in the network functions on-premises, minimizing the risk of data breaches and other security threats.
The overall performance of the smart factory improves with the Eden system and empowers new smart factory solutions, especially for embedded solutions with AI and machine learning.
The best way to leverage smart factory technology is to know how to use it to solve your company's challenges, but ultimately, to define how the future of your company will be. The best strategy is to make an evolutionary process; it is better to make conscious changes instead of trying to rush results. IoE Corp offers you support for defining your smart factory's entire future, join our Planet Partner program and we'll accompany you along the journey.
The Planet Planet program offers you training, development resources, and people to help you innovate and grow in the future edge computing world. Take your business to the next level by working on three aspects: sales, development, and service; we have designed each to help enhance your business. If you are interested, please, apply here. We will be happy to have a conversation.